Warfare has evolved far beyond the first generation; when it was all about set pieces of lines and columns of armed soldiers. Today, this favourite past time of mankind is waged by frustrated non-state warriors, directing their rage against visible symbols of oppression and opulence, drawing visceral as well as vicarious pleasure out of their violence. Third generation warfare, which was waged between industrial age armies over land and resources was replaced by fourth generation warfare, waged by non-state actors and asymmetric warriors employing terrorism as a tool to achieve their political objectives. Fifth generation warfare is an interesting development, where non-state warriors fight nation states out of sheer frustration without clear political objectives. According to a US Army Major Shannon Beebe this kind of warfare would be motivated by frustration than any other material or ideological objective. US Marine Corps Lt Colonel Stanton writes in Marine Corps Gazette that the fifth generation warfare is most likely to be prosecuted in “enclaves of deprivation” where the vortex of violence threatens peace and order.
Some of the areas mapped by these prophets of fifth generation warfare for future conflicts include Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (IS), and other ideological warriors provide the ideological anchors for the impromptu violence by these fifth generation warriors. Poverty, economic deprivation, and political injustices breed fifth generation warriors, whose hatred emanates out of a feeling of hopelessness and envy of the more affluent segments of humanity. The islands of affluence surrounded by a sea of destitution will not remain secure in their sanitized sanctums, enjoying a life of luxury and order. The frustration of the poor, hungry, and desperate masses will soon spill over into these bastions of stability, a reality more obvious today than before in the shape of illegal immigration, crime, and violence by the denizens of deprived states. According to a UN Human Development Report, 1.8 percent of the global population owns 86 percent of the overall global wealth.As per the 2013 Oxfam International Report, the richest one percent own 48 percent of the global wealth. The world is divided iniquitously into two groups. The first group comprises countries like the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and Canada, which have13 percent of the world population and are appropriating 45 percent of the world’s income, based on Purchasing Power Parity, while the second group that comprises 42 percent of the world population, including countries like India, Indonesia, and even China only possess nine percent.
While the world is a bigger template, the same income inequalities prevail within nations as well. The same spectre of relative deprivation with attendant risks stalks countries like Pakistan, where the global and the local risks coalesce into a lethal cocktail of social, economic, and political deprivations fuelling intra-state conflicts. The characteristics of fifth generation warfare would be the sudden and inexplicable eruption of violence against the visible symbols of state strength such as law enforcing agencies, communication infrastructure, public offices, banking sources, and even the richer segments private property. Fifth generation warfare emanates out of frustration, due to deep seated feelings of political and economic deprivation. The catalyst to violence could be foreign invasions, state oppression, and political injustices. The rise of the local claimants to spiritual and temporal power challenging state writ through repudiation of the state’s political order like Mullah Fazlullah in the past is an example of such catalysts. When a state fails to establish order through effective governance, and also fails to provide economic justice, fifth generation warfare is foisted upon it by the deprived classes.
Pakistan is already in the throes of this phenomenon, internally generated and externally abetted. Like the resource curse of countries like Angola and Congo, Pakistan’s geographical location is a curse. Instead of yielding economic dividends it has caused constant meddling by global powers in its internal affairs. Faced with such constant supply of war fuel, the soft state model of governance by an illiberal democracy is a sure recipe of chaos and disorder. When democratic traditions do not seep into institutions like the legislature, executive, and judiciary the electoral democracy degenerates into a plutocracy where people get marginalized. Without inclusive and pluralistic governance with real political power devolved down to the local government level, the democratic project yields nothing but politics of patronage and pelf in the service of a predatory elite. The enclaves of poverty and deprivation soon develop into cesspools of violent resistance against the perceived symbols of state oppression. Foreign elements fish freely in these turbid waters in pursuit of their strategic objectives, while the state continually withers away.
Like the resource curse of countries like Angola and Congo, Pakistan’s geographical location is a curse. Instead of yielding economic dividends it has caused constant meddling by global powers in its internal affairs
While CPEC and other regional alliances may offer a ray of hope,the fifth generation wars imposed upon Pakistan by forces inimical to the above cannot be won through the present lackadaisical approach. This war can only be won through a steely national resolve, yoking military as well as civil components of the national security strategy. The national security strategy of Pakistan must accord equal importance to military and non-military components, with the military component targeting visible threats through kinetic means and the non-military component targeting the underlying causes of frustration and violence through non-kinetic means. National Action Plan (NAP), which was a precipitate charter of Pakistan’s anti-terrorism resolve has not been followed with the needed urgency and resolve. A holistic policy should address the underlying causes of violence rather than pruning the leaves and leaving roots untouched. It is time the state understood that the causes of violence could only be removed through improvement in human security.
In order to counter fifth generation threats, one must identify them first. The threats not only emanate from religious extremism, but also from political and economic deprivation amongst the ethnic communities in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and even in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The lack of development, poor access to health and education, and joblessness are generating frustrations that boil over into violent state defiance. The MQM, under Altaf Hussain and the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) under Allah Nazar Baloch were both culpable of violence rooted in this politico-economic deprivation. The state thus has to gird its lions to address the economic and political injustices of all deprived communities through genuine political reforms that empower people at the local level. Infrastructural developments in communications, water supply,health, and education with focus on poverty alleviation should be the key planks of our national security strategy. Zero tolerance for extremism and exploitation of people in the name of religion or ethnic particularism should be another key plank of the strategy. Reform of antediluvian madrassah syllabi and their registration along with control of funding should be another bull that the state has to take by the horns.
It is time the state called the bluff of the clerics exploiting the faith of gullible people to further their personal agendas. The state needs to wrest back the control of the mosques from the clerics. If in Turkey, Malaysia, and UAE the mosques and Friday sermons could be regulated, why can’t the same be done here? If we do not address the root causes and keep baulking from genuine reforms, there is no hope. The fires of the fifth generation war lit by our internal contradictions and external vulnerabilities can only be doused through a bold and multi-dimensional national security strategy, according due weightage to military and non-military components sans which our CPEC dream willremain just a dream.
Note: This article appeared in Daily Times, dated 19 March 2018.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.